Brett McGurk to be next Iraq envoy?


The mammoth U.S. embassy in Baghdad as seen from across the Tigris river. (Anonymous/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

McGurk, a former law clerk for the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, was senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan in the Bush White House and an attorney with the ill-fated Coalition Provisional Authority and the embassy in Baghdad in 2004 and 2005, handling matters such as constitutional reform and elections.

During the Obama administration, McGurk continued to handle an Iraq portfolio as top adviser to ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Christopher Hill in Baghdad. He had also been lead negotiator on agreements with the Iraqis for withdrawal of U.S. troops and for future bilateral relations, according to an official biography.

Sources say McGurk, more recently an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has a very good relationship with Prime Minister Nouri al- Malaki — something that is seen as increasingly important of late, given the substantially diminished U.S. influence in the country.

The possible appointment, first reported by Laura Rozen at Yahoo News, would have McGurk replace veteran diplomat James F. Jeffrey, who is retiring after a 35-year career in the foreign service, a source told the Loop.

Jeffrey, whose relations with Maliki might be described as, at best, formal, also served in the Bush administration as deputy National Security Adviser and then ambassador to Turkey before taking over in Baghdad in August, 2010.

His résumé indicates that, if nominated, McGurk would have little trouble getting Senate confirmation. Maybe he can figure out what to do with that excess space at the 104-acre, mega-embassy on the Tigris?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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